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Is it worth the effort?

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by pharmdc1, Feb 23, 2007.

  1. pharmdc1

    pharmdc1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    I want your honest opinions on this. A friend and I have been installing irrigation systems on the side for about a year and are considering doing it full time now. We make great money per install job, but we don't do it very often. My question is, for those of you that have taken the leap, is it worth the effort to try to make a full time business out of it? Of course our wives say we are idiots for considering it, but we enjoy it and want to at least explore the option. I've heard from a couple of people here that we should plan on living broke for the first couple of years. I'm sure that it will be tough to start, but what does that mean in terms of numbers? Can any of you give me examples of how much you made starting out and what you went through to get where you are now. Would you do it again? Thanks for your input.
  2. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,930

    In terms of numbers, there is always different variables.

    For example, you start now, what are you going to do if a drought comes into play?...only likely work is going to be repairs.

    How much real competition do you face?

    What kind of equipment do you really need vs can get by by renting as needed?

    Other things to look at:
    Who's going to pay the mortgage\rent?
    What about various insurances such as health, liability and if applicable w.c.?

    Once you answer those questions, then you can actually come up with start up numbers.

    If you live in an area where you truly have a season, what are you going to survive on during those off months?

    There's no reason to be poor, but for poor planning.

    If you mean by poor, not having the ability to buy that new super duper TV, then I wouldn't consider going on your own because a good business is always going to poor money back into the company to be more profitable in the long run. it's the ability to pay yourself more and more and still put money back into the company is the trick to any kind of company.

    Just my 2 cents of thoughts
  3. pharmdc1

    pharmdc1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    What do you mean about mortgage/rent? For our individual homes? Our health insurance will be taken care of by our wives. We will need liability insurance, but as for WC, we won't start out with any employees, so I don't think that will be necessary. We could get a business loan to buy the equipment, but we will probably rent as needed to start. We do have a good bit of competion around, but they are mostly landscapers that also do irrigation, not strictly irrigation. The winter season is a concern that we have considered. It could be a time for some installs and backflow testing. To answer your question, the first few years, all we want is to be able to pay our bills at home and keep the business afloat. Do you think this is possible with us having a partnership or would it be better for one person to do it?
  4. PSUturf

    PSUturf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 663

    It will depend on your startup costs. If you have to rent a building, buy a truck and trailer, buy a plow / trencher then it will be riskier. If you already own the equipment and can work out of your garage I would be more comfortable with turning it into a full time job.

    I was in a similar situation a few years back. I used to help a friend who had a side business installing irrigation systems. Because his overhead was so low he made about $1000 from an average install (8 zones) after all expenses were paid. If you and your friend could average two installs per week you should do ok (without knowing how much income you need)
  5. pharmdc1

    pharmdc1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    We could potentially get by with just buying a trencher to start. We already have a truck and trailer. In the past we have just rented a trencher for each job. It would be a luxury to have a bobcat trencher and a mini-ex, but that would come later. We would need to pay ourselves 60 to 70K combined per year to make ends meet at home. Most installs we have done average about 4 to 5 zones, but we usually clear about $1500 for 4 zones. The only problem would be having the demand to install 2 systems per week.
  6. justgeorge

    justgeorge LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 353

    Where have you gotten your business from in the past doing it on the side? Advertising can get expensive if you're looking to add enough business to go full time. For example, in my area using Valpak, 30k homes is $900/month; 60k homes is $1600/month.

    Also if everyone else in your area uses a vibratory plow instead of a trencher you'll want to go that direction; it would be hard to compete when you're trenching and everyone else is plowing.

  7. pharmdc1

    pharmdc1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    $900/month!! That is ridiculous. There's got to be a cheaper way. In our area, nobody that I know of uses a plow. Too many rocks and hard red clay. For our side jobs, it's just been word of mouth through friends. But that won't get us 2 jobs per week for sure.
  8. NC_Irrigator

    NC_Irrigator LawnSite Bronze Member
    from NC
    Messages: 1,445

    Thats ridiculous. Who wants to take calls from 30k or 60 thousand households. (Not that your going to get that many calls) Half would go to the projects, of whom dont know that a irrigation system is. Thats a complete waste of money.
  9. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,517

    Getting known is where the "how long can you stand to lose money?" question comes in. If you can do service, you want to be in the phone book, and there's some lead time involved getting into a directory.
  10. justgeorge

    justgeorge LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 353

    Nope they break the city down into groups of 10k homes each. I pick which areas they go to. Not to put in a plug for Valpak, but they don't even deliver to the downtown area (which would include "the projects").

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